Avocados are so much more than the main ingredient in guacamole. They’re nutritional powerhouses and versatile must-haves in the kitchen and beyond.
So what’s all the fuss about?
First things first: Avocados can help you look good.
Damage from the sun’s rays can lead to premature aging of the skin, with unfortunate effects such as wrinkles. Research has suggested that eating avocados or applying them directly to your skin may help prevent ultraviolet (UV) damage (1).
In addition, UV damage can lead to DNA damage (2), and eating foods that contain carotenoids similar to those found in avocado may help prevent this.
DNA damage over time has been blamed for skin cancer, dark spots, and skin that is thinner and less elastic. By consuming avocados, you might be able to get antiaging benefits without shelling out for pricey serums or creams.
Also, a small study from 2001 found that a cream containing vitamin B-12 and avocado oil might have potential as a treatment for psoriasis (3). An added benefit of this possible treatment is that it would have little to no side effects.
To learn more about how avocado oil can benefit your skin — including how to make an avocado face mask — check out this article on avocado oil for your skin.
The takeaway: You shouldn’t ditch your sunscreen, but avocado could have skin benefits such as preventing UV damage as well as DNA damage.
Avocados can also help boost the health of your tresses.
Applying vegetable oils, such as avocado oil, to your hair, can help smooth and seal the hair cuticle (4), leaving hair softer and shinier. And if you eat avocados, their B vitamins could also help strengthen and condition your hair.
To learn more, check out this article on how vitamins can benefit your hair.
The takeaway: Healthy, shiny hair is often a reflection of your diet, and avocados can help you look your best.
And now for the real reasons why avocados are creating such a healthy stir.
An avocado’s nutritional resume is impressive. A serving of 100 grams — about two-thirds of a medium avocado — contains the following nutrients:
|Nutrient||Amount in 100 grams of avocado (5)||Percent of the FDA’s Daily Value (6)|
|Vitamin K||21 ug||26 percent|
|Folate||81 ug||20 percent|
|Potassium||485 mg||14 percent|
|Vitamin C||10 mg||17 percent|
|Vitamin B-6||0.26 mg||13 percent|
|Niacin||1.7 mg||9 percent|
|Riboflavin||0.13 mg||8 percent|
|Magnesium||29 mg||7 percent|
|Vitamin E||2 mg||7 percent|
Avocados also contain other goodies such as vitamin E, thiamin, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and lutein/zeaxanthin. On top of that, add 7 grams of fiber, 13 grams of healthy fats, no cholesterol, and less than one gram of sugar, and you’ve got a healthy treat you can feel good about adding to any meal.
|Macronutrient||Amount in 100 g of avocado (7)|
|Total fat||15 g|
Let’s shine a light on one avocado nutrient in particular — potassium.
A 100-gram serving of avocado contains 485 milligrams of potassium (9), or 14 percent of the Daily Value recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (10). That’s more than you’ll find in a banana, a well-known source of potassium, which contains 358 mg in a serving of the same size (11).
This a huge plus for the avocado, as potassium has many proven health benefits. Research has shown that it can help lower blood pressure and help support both cardiovascular and kidney health (12). It can even play a role in keeping blood sugar levels healthy.
The takeaway: You can step away from that banana and reach for an avocado if you’re looking to up your intake of potassium.
You may have heard that avocados contain fat, but remember — not all fats are bad!
Avocado oil is 71 percent monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) (13). These are the “good” fats that may benefit your heart, normalize blood clotting, and even help control blood sugar levels if you eat them in place of carbohydrates.
Avocado oil is also made of 13 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and only 16 percent saturated fatty acids (14).
These fats can benefit your culinary efforts as well as your cardiovascular system.
Extra virgin avocado oil has a very high smoke point. It doesn’t begin to smoke or burn until it reaches 520°F (271°C).
This makes it a good oil for high-heat cooking methods such as broiling, grilling, sauteing, stir-frying, and searing meat.
The takeaway: You shouldn’t shy away from avocados because of their fat content. They contain mostly healthy fats, and avocado oil is useful for many types of cooking.
The MUFAs found in avocados can have some real benefit for your heart.
According to research, eating avocados can help lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol (15). High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to hardening of the arteries, one of the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
The takeaway: The fats found in avocados can help improve your cholesterol levels, which in turn can boost your heart health.
Avocados contain carotenoids, which are compounds with high antioxidant activity that may help prevent cell damage (17).
Preliminary studies indicate that carotenoids may help prevent breast, gastric, oral, and prostate cancers (18, 19, 20, 21, 22). And when paired with healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, these compounds are more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream, where they can deliver their benefits.
The takeaway: Avocados may be able to play a part in a healthy diet that helps reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Avocados may reduce the pain and damage of arthritis.
Research also shows that these extracts reduce the need for common anti-inflammatory drugs in people with OA (26). At this point, however, the long-term effects of using these extracts to treat OA are uncertain.
The takeaway: It’s not known for certain that avocado can reduce OA symptoms, but research is encouraging. And since avocados are so healthy for other reasons, if you have OA, they may be worth a try!
Better nutrient absorption
Avocados not only provide lots of nutrients, they also help your body absorb nutrients when they’re eaten with certain foods.
Studies show that the fats in avocados help your body absorb carotenoids (27). These are powerful antioxidants that help your body fight disease, such as certain cancers. Carotenoids include beta-carotene and lycopene.
For instance, carotenoids are found in carrots and tomatoes. Eating avocados along with these foods can help your body absorb vitamin A.
The takeaway: Avocados both provide nutrients and help your body absorb other nutrients. It’s a win-win situation!
The nutrients that avocados both provide and help your body absorb include lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants can boost your eye health.
The takeaway: Eating foods such as avocados that contain lutein and zeaxanthin could help prevent serious eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Several animal studies over the years have suggested that eating avocado may promote liver health in people with various liver problems, including fatty liver disease and liver issues related to diabetes (30).
Specifically, the antioxidants found in avocado oil or extract may protect liver tissue against oxidative damage, which can lead to abnormal changes in the structure and functioning of the liver.
For instance, glutathione, which is found in high amounts in avocado (31), is important to the health of your liver. Liver damage leads to a deficiency of this antioxidant, and studies now suggest that intake of glutathione is a potential treatment for liver disease in humans (32).
In addition, research has suggested that the avocado’s antioxidant content and its anti-inflammatory and LDL-lowering potential mean it’s likely a wise addition to a low-fat diet for most people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (33).
The takeaway: The nutrients found in avocados could have a positive effect on liver disease, as well as on inflammation and LDL cholesterol levels.
Help with weight loss
Avocados contain both healthy fats and fiber, which may help you feel full for longer after you eat (35, 36). This is because your body digests fats and fiber more slowly than, say, carbohydrates, and slower digestion means it takes you longer to get hungry again.
One study showed that eating half an avocado at lunch helped overweight people feel full for a longer time (37). Adding avocado to your diet could slow your digestion and help you resist the urge to reach for that mid-afternoon snack.
The takeaway: While avocados are high in calories, they contain healthy fats and fiber that could help you feel full for longer. This could help you resist less healthy treats and improve your chances of weight loss.
As you may know, nutrients such as folate (folic acid) are important for expectant moms because they can prevent birth defects (38).
Avocados contain more folate by weight than other fruits and vegetables (39). They also contain more potassium, another nutrient that pregnant women often lack.
Add fiber, MUFAs, and various antioxidants to the mix — other nutrients found in avocados — and you have a nutritional powerhouse that could help support mom’s health, breast milk quality, and even healthy birth outcomes (40).
The takeaway: If you’re pregnant and craving something delicious that’s good for you and your growing little one, consider reaching for an avocado.
It’s hard to be sad while eating an avocado, and that may not be due just to its yummy taste.
Low levels of folate and vitamin B-12 are linked with an increased risk of depression. Avocados contain both of these nutrients, so eating avocados could help boost your mood (41).
And one study found that a diet rich in whole foods protected middle-aged people against depression, while a diet focused on processed foods did not (42). Researchers speculated that the high levels of antioxidants or folate could have been the cause of the improved mood.
And what superfood contains high levels of both of these types of nutrients? That’s right — the avocado!
The takeaway: While studies don’t show direct links, avocados provide valuable nutrients that could have a real impact on your mood.
Good news is that if you already eat plenty of avocados, you’re more likely to be a healthy person.
Of course, studies such as this must be taken with a grain of salt. There’s no direct causal relationship here; for instance, eating an avocado doesn’t automatically make you eat less sugar. But it is interesting to see that some people who eat avocados have such healthy habits.
The takeaway: One study showed that people who eat avocados were more likely to act healthy and be healthy.
If you’ve never given avocado much thought, now’s a great time to experiment. Avocado is buttery and smooth, with a rich, nutty flavor.
Most people think solely of guacamole when they think of avocados, but they can be used in so much more. Consider using avocado in place of mayonnaise on your favorite sandwich, or try them in an orange-avocado salad (46). You could also swap out a high-fat dessert for avocado pudding cups (47).
And of course, there’s everybody’s current favorite: avocado toast.
The takeaway: Avocados are easy to use in a variety of dishes. And they taste delicious!